Alternative Behavior Strategies,Inc. – Our Story (not a good one)

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Reposted from here.

I just don’t want to be a part of something that’s going to put the care and my profession at risk,” said Jeff Skibitsky, owner of Alternative Behavior Strategies. “There’s no use in providing a service that’s going to be ineffective.”

Wow…Those looking for Autism Therapy and considering ABS should take these as prescient words of caution before engaging Alternative Behavior Strategies, Inc.

My 4 year old son, Tyler is Autistic.  Because Utah does not have a mandate that requires insurance companies to cover Autisim therapy, Tyer is in the Medicaid Autism Waiver program in Utah.  He is granted 15 hours per week of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy.  Tylerbug

After being selected in February, 2012 we selected a company called “Alternative Behavior Strategies“ which is owned and managed by Jeff Skibitsky and with whom Jennifer Barnazos is their ‘operations director’ or similar.  It should be noted that Jeff Skibinsky is a member of the Autism Treatment Fund Advisory Committee.

We never spoke with Jeff or Jennifer and started the therapy after coordinating through the state of Utah.  Within a week of starting therapy, it was apparent that they were less than organized and certainly less than professional.  Their “Therapist” conducted ‘therapy’ by taking Tyler for walks to the park while she talked on the phone.  She missed numerous appointments and finally quite.  ABS brought in two new therapists.  One day, without notice, one of the therapists with whom Tyler had developed a great affection…was fired with no notice to us and no transition…Jennifer did call after this event to tell us that they had ‘new therapists’ that could support Tyler.   This, to my recollection,  was the first and only time we ever spoke to Jennifer until I called to advocate for my child.  As of November 09, 2013 we are now ‘owed’ about 40 hours of therapy that they have not provided.  they replaced the ‘fired’ therapist with two other therapists.

Last week, I called Jennifer (the office manger) to express my frustration with their operations.  The call was direct but cordial and I was clear that my complaint was NOT with the current therapists rather, it was with their operations and the fact that Tyler was many hours behind with no chance of catching up.  He had been given 5 different therapists within a six month period.  Keep in mind that this company makes ~$37K per year from Medicaid for 15 hours per week of therapy.  Jennifer asked if I would like her to “help coordinate a change in programs with the Medicaid waiver program?”  I was VERY clear that she was NOT to call anyone and we were NOT changing providers.  I wanted to talk to my wife and IF we decided to move we would inform them.   Within 10 minutes of my calling Jennifer, she called Jeff Skibitsky who, in turn, called the Autism Waiver director and he initiated termination of our services. Jennifer then called my wife and explained that she was ‘sad’ we had terminated services.  My wife informed her that we had never terminated services.  We called the Medicaid Waiver director and explained that we had NOT terminated anything and in fact, were simply ‘fired’ as clients because we advocated for our child who was not receiving the hours promised.  Given that they had ‘fired us’ for advocating for our child, we began looking for a new provider and found one willing to take on Tyler but that they would need to get a therapists in Park City etc.  We had simply begun the process and it would be at least 30 days before he was transitioned to a new therapists.  Jeff then called Heather and Heather stated to him that she know there was a reason they were claiming we terminated services and Jeff claimed that it had no effect on the process who terminated services.  Well, know we know that it does and his pretext was clear.

Before I continue, here is another quote from Jeff Skibinsky…

“You have a very fragile population here. There’s a chance people [could do] things that are completely inappropriate” – My response: “Surgeon Heal Thyself”…again prescient words from Mr. Jeff Skabinsky.

Tonight, we received a message from one of the therapists (not Jeff nor Jennifer) that they were ‘terminating services immediately’.  What does this mean?  Tyler’s therapist will NOT be in tomorrow to work with him…nor will any therapists from ABS work with Tyler.  He is simply going to go without any needed therapy because, apparently, they don’t like Mom and Dad.  Under the guidelines of the Autism Waiver program providers must continue services for 30 days OR until the child is receiving services from another provider.

As stated on DHS90597_DSPD_AUTISM_WAIVER_SERVICES document:

“The contractor initiating a request for discharge of a person shall provide 30 calendar days prior written and verbal notification to the Person’s parent or legal guardian and the Person’s Support Coordinate of the Contractor’s intent to discharge the person from the Contractor’s service. Upon the Contractor’s initiating a discharge request pursuant to this section, the Contractor shall continue services for an additional 90 days, if the DHS/DSPD Autism program manager requires the Contractor to do so to maintain a Person’s health and safety or to allow the Person to transition to another service provider.”

The reason for this clause is simple.  ABA therapy is so necessary to the continued success of an Autistic child that the program requires continued services so that they child does not miss therapy and regress.  As a BCBA who has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, Jeff knows this.  This doesn’t seem to matter to “Alternative Behavior Strategies” whether Tyler gets his therapy.  So…until the other company can actually provide services, my Autistic son is simply cast aside by a  ”business owner” who doesn’t even have the professionalism to call and speak to the parents directly and, instead, directs a subordinate therapist to do the ‘dirty work’.  Nice.  In his own words:

“You have a very fragile population here. There’s a chance people [could do] things that are completely inappropriate”

I still have never spoken to Jeff and have had a single interaction with Jennifer since March.  My one interaction was to advocate for my child and he was simply discarded from a very necessary program in which he was enrolled.

Clearly, if you are looking for any ABA services, I would suggest you avoid ABS.  In my opinion they view children as little more than products that make them $37K per year from the Medicaid program and if you advocate for your child, they will simply fire you as a client.

What type of person would put an Autistic child in such a position and intentionally prevent them from receiving therapy services for which they are getting paid?  When you answer this, you will know why we would never advise anyone to work with Alternative Behavior Strategies, Inc.

I wonder if maybe Tyler’s therapy was not going as well as they had hoped and that is the reason behind his ejection from their program? Jeff Skibitsky said it best himself when he said:

“I just don’t want to be a part of something that’s going to put the care and my profession at risk,” said Jeff Skibitsky, owner of Alternative Behavior Strategies. “There’s no use in providing a service that’s going to be ineffective.”

If you are considering ABS you can contact Jeff directly at: Jeff@alternativebehaviorstrategies.com or call them at: (801) 935-4171 or (310) 916-6155..you can find them on facebook here.

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Remember your role…

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

It is important as a consultant that you 1) remember your role and 2) remember who is paying you.  Occasionally, it is tempting to take sole credit for ideas and recommendations that your client likes.  Even if it was your own idea, it is always a good idea to give credit to the team with which you work.  In many instances you will be hired by a company and assigned to work with one particular person or group.  In my experience however, executives normally like to understanding what they are getting for their money.  It is not uncommon to be brought in to debrief the CEO, CIO, or other executives on the project and your recommendations.  As tempting as it may be to take sole credit, it is always a good idea to give a nod to the team or person with whom you are working.  Something as simple as the following is an example. “I have to give the team credit. I explained the regulation and how it is applied, and they came up with the solution.  It was impressive watching the wheels turn.  My role was limited to planting the seed.”  You want to leave the company with a good impression of your services and you want to leave the employees with a good feeling.  Allowing them to get some kudos from their bosses  make everyone happier and ultimately may result in your getting more business.

Live and Die by Writing

Saturday, February 11th, 2012

As a consultant you are hired to communicate effectively.  This include being able to speak clearly, and concisely as well as being able to write clearly, and concisely.  If you don’t like writing, you may want to change professions.  Between 2007-2008 I produced over 600 pages of written material for clients.

There is nothing more embarrassing than having a client correct a deliverable because it had misspellings, incorrect grammar, or syntax.  Unfortunately, writing is as much of an art as it is a science.  Honing your writing skills will take time and a patient person to critique your work.  Practice, practice, practice.  A good form of practice is writing articles, position papers, and whitepapers and, of course, blogs.  Three resources all writers should have at their disposal include:

While spell check and grammar check are great tools to help remember that they often make mistakes.  Nothing quite as embarrassing as leaving the ‘L’ out of Public and it being missed by spell check as pubic is recognized as a word in the dictionary.

 

Consulting Tip: Speaking to Clients

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Few things make my cringe more than a consultant that doesn’t know how to talk to a client.  As a consultant, you are a paid professional engaged to provide information, expertise, and advice on a particular topic.  I have yet to be hired to tell a client what to do but I have been hired a number of times to provide guidance and advice.  Nothing demonstrates a lack of understanding of the consultant’s role than when he or she states to the client: “what you should do”; “what I would do”; “You must do”; “here is the answer”.   I will never forget one very tense situation when I was a young consultant many years ago.  I was working with a major company that had just had a data breach and I was on the phone with a card brand, the client, and the Secret Service.  I stated with full confidence: “You should do X..”  Without missing a beat, the client, who was not in a good mood to begin with retorts: “What I SHOULD DO…HUH?  And who the hell are you to tell me what I SHOULD DO in this situation?”  If you follow my advice below you will not have the same situation happen to you.

As a consultant you are hired to do research, bring your own expertise and provide guidance while considering the following: 1) you don’t know all of the variables or business constraints 2) it is not your money or your business so you cannot understand all of the risks 3) there is never a single path to success.  With these in mind, a solid consultant will always qualify their statements in such a way as to provide the client with information that it is their decision.  Here are some variations on phrases I have used to convey ideas and recommendations

1) “Based upon prevailing research and my experiences, I believe a appropriate solution could be found in…”

2) “Here are X options I have identified.  Let me explain the advantages and disadvantages of each so that you may make a more informed decision…”

3) “My experience suggests that X would be a more efficient way forward”

4) “While I personally believe that X may be a more effective method forward, understanding your constraints, I believe we can achieve your objectives with Y”

5) “After considering all of the aspects available to me I recommend that X be pursued as the way forward”

In each of these examples you are leaving the decision making up to the client and are simply providing your own expert advice based upon research, experience, and your knowledge of the business and constraints.  Often a client will take a recommendation and sometimes they will move in a different direction.  The important aspect is to understand your role as a consultant and NOT as a decision maker.  The client makes the decision with (hopefully) your input (since they paid for it).

Demonstration of Expertise

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

I work with a number of clients that will often ask the value of publishing an article, public speaking, or writing a whitepaper.  In my mind the most important outcome of any of the aforementioned efforts is what I call “demonstration of expertise”.  What exactly is “demonstration of expertise”?  It is exactly what it sound like.  By writing or speaking on a particular topic you are (hopefully) demonstrating to your potential clients that you have a degree of expertise.  The mere fact that you are willing to extend yourself and your reputation for critique demonstrates that you have confidence in what you are about to say.  If you can then complement that by providing unique, insightful info it further demonstrates your degree of expertise.  Granted these are not the only ways to demonstrate expertise but it helps quite a bit.

What is the value of “demonstrated expertise? Let me answer with a question 😉

If I were to offer that for the low, low price of $1,000  you could sit down and discuss investment strategies with me or with Donald Trump who would you choose?  I feel confident that every person reading this would instantly think ‘The Donald’.  Irrespective of what you may  or may not think of his personality, he has demonstrated to most that he understands investing.  How do you know I am not an investing guru?  I have an MBA.  I am pretty smart.  I have invested alot.  It is possible that I could know more about investing than Trump.  The key here is that Trump has demonstrated his expertise again, and again.  The smart money would go with The Donald as opposed to me.

When you demonstrate your expertise to your customers or clients you provide some level of confidence that they are going to get value for their money.  By extending yourself and demonstrating your knowledge you help your own business.

One of the tactics I frequently use is to offer ‘free consulting’ with no strings attached.  When I would get a call from a potential client I will offer an hour of free consulting.  If, after the hour, they decide they want to go with my competitor, no hard feelings.  Two things happen here.  One, the client gets free consulting, which they love.  More importantly, I get a chance to confidently demonstrate  my skills to a potential client.  I get an hour of their uninterrupted time to show my own skills.  Using this technique (and backed up with actual experience and expertise) I have closed about 90% of all deals that took me up on the offer.

 

Welcome to the Mark Consulting Group Blog!

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Thanks for visiting my blog.  This particular blog will focus on business concepts, and themes that are important to consultants, would-be consultants, and businesses hiring consultants.

 

Chris Mark